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Jennifer Anniston gives a beautiful, heartfelt performance in `The Good
Girl,' a film totally in tune with the rhythms of everyday life.
Justine Last is just one of the many people inhabiting this Deep South,
Bible Belt town who find themselves leading lives of quiet desperation,
imprisoned by the dreary sameness of their daily routines. Justine works
one of those generic five-and-dime drug stores that so define the culture
Middle America. Yet, Justine's job and work environment are not the only
sources of her frustration. She is also married to a well-meaning but
blue collar worker who would rather spend the evening sitting on the sofa
getting stoned with his partner than engage in any meaningful
relationship-building with his wife. At the age of 30 then, Justine is
for some kind of life-changing experience when in walks Holden Worther, an
introverted, obviously disturbed young co-worker who sees in Justine the
very soul mate he has been searching for all his life, a person who will
understand him and share his hatred for the life they are both leading.
`The Good Girl' is really about the contrast between what we would like our lives to be and what they really are. Justine knows that the `easy' choice would be to pull up stakes and simply run away with Holden, abandoning a town, a marriage and a husband she has come lately to both abhor and despise. Yet, something keeps Justine rooted to the spot, something that makes her understand that any decision she makes will end up hurting someone in the end besides herself. Perhaps she sticks around because she realizes that, for all his faults, her husband is, in reality, a pretty decent guy overall and that he really does love her. Perhaps she also realizes that Holden is more mentally disturbed than she is willing to admit and that whatever life she might have with him would only mean exchanging one set of troubles for another. Credit the Mike White screenplay with exploring the complex nature of the film's characters and relationships. We never quite know where the story is headed or how all the issues will get resolved - if at all. As in real life, the story here keeps bumping up against new and ever more challenging complications and, because we can identify with the messiness, we are eager to go along with it wherever it chooses to take us. The film also does a fine job showing how life takes wholly unexpected turns at times, such as when a fairly major character dies unexpectedly. The casual suddenness of the death throws us for a loop since we so rarely see death portrayed that way in the movies.
Miguel Arteta's deadpan, matter-of-fact directorial style brings out the black comedy richness inherent in the material. Amid all the pain and sadness, there are a surprising number of genuine laughs in the film as we see our own lives reflected in the people and incidents there on the screen. Actually, the film reminds us a bit - in its music, its use of voiceover narration and its unromanticized view of rural life - of Terrance Malick's great 1973 film, `Badlands,' a landmark in independent American filmmaking.
Anniston, who is probably in every scene in the film, carries the picture with her rich and highly empathetic performance. Even though her character is a woman slowly becoming deadened to the world around her, she still retains that spark of life and that absurd hope for the future that make her worthy to be the centerpiece of an intimate drama such as this one. Jake Gyllenhaal makes Holden both strangely appealing and a little frightening, so that, as Justine does, we come to admire his `uniqueness' of spirit (he has adopted his name from the main character of his favorite book `Catcher in the Rye') yet fear his increasing possessiveness. John C. Reilly as Justine's husband, Phil, and Deborah Rush as Gwen Jackson, Justine's sometime confidante at the store, also provide memorable, telling performances. In fact, there is nothing less than a superb performance in the entire film.
The question of whether or not Justine is really `a good girl' is, as it should be, left up to the individual viewer to decide. Some may feel she is; others may feel she's not. What really matters, though, is that `The Good Girl' doesn't try to impress us with the slickness that generally defines mainstream commercial filmmaking. Instead it lets its drama unfold in an unforced, believable manner, so that even its moments of greatest absurdity seem somehow strangely real and lifelike. It is a film that, in its own quiet, subtle way, manages to get under your skin - and keeps you thinking for a long time after you leave the theater.
'The Good Girl' is a sad comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as Justine. She
works at Retail Rodeo where she is very unhappy. When she comes home she
finds her husband Phil (John C. Reilly) stoned on the couch with his best
friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson) night after night. It is not very strange
she is attracted to Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) the new kid who comes to work
at Retail Rodeo. He is even more depressed than she is, he reads The Catcher
in the Rye and has named himself after that book. Soon she starts an affair
with him and one night Bubba sees them together. Bubba makes his own little
A thing that surprised me was the great acting. John C. Reilly, who was in every great movie in 2002 (also 'Gangs of New York', 'Chicago' and 'The Hours'), is great as the husband, Jake Gyllenhaal terrific as the disturbed kid and most of all Jennifer Aniston is superb as Justine. Here she everything but Rachel from 'Friends' and that is a very good thing. She is really acting and it is one of the best performances of 2002.
The sad story is very good as well and there is some fine comedy, especially with another worker at Retail Rodeo names Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel). She insults customers all the time and says the strangest things; the customers hardly notice. Funny, sad and very good is what 'The Good Girl' is in the end.
This movie is great, in my opinion, because its so misunderstood. Its so simple! The dialogue is not heavy, but it is perfectly articulated and emotional, and delivered brilliantly by Jennifer Aniston, who really shines as Justine, a small town girl who wants to get away from the monotony of life. Jake Gyllenhaal's role as a Holden Caulfield wannabe is well pulled off. I particularly liked how depressingly un attractive his drunken dramas were. You could see so many emotions in Justine, trying to ignore what she didn't like about him, trying to find something to love about him. Though my all time favourite aspect of the movie is the painfully realistic awkward sex and kissing. With an extreme but none the less effective ending, I'd easily give this film a biased 9/10! A little slice of real life, for a change.
Justine works at a supermarket in a small town and is married to her
underachieving painter husband. She feels trapped and unable to deal with
the stagnant pool that is her life. When a mysteriously dark young man
begins to work at the supermarket she gets involved with him as a way out of
her normal life into something more exciting. However things get much more
exciting that she expected.
Rented by my wife as she searched for something in a sort of comedy/drama. As always she has pretty good judgement and better taste than I give her credit for. I had heard reasonable things about this film but I wasn't sure if it would just be another Friends clone comedy. Happily my fears were not realised and this film is actually quite a brave shot at being a character study rather than another one of her hollow rom-coms. The plot looks at an ordinary woman who is living a life that is far below what she thought she wanted. It is not spectacular but it works well on this level. We see her pursue her supposed dream but only getting sucked into other things that she doesn't want for her life. Not all the drama works as well as others and some twists and scenes are a little too much for such a low-key film.
The film has some laughs in it, but not so many that it hurts the main drama of the film. At times the comedy works well to compliment the main thread but occasionally it is misjudged and threatens to take away from it a bit. The fact that the film is quite down beat and low-key might put some off as it doesn't really set the screen on fire, however what it does do well is develop the character of Justine as you watch the film.
As such the film does rely on the acting and the majority of it is very good. As much as I dislike her performance in Friends (and thus every repeat she's done in the films), Aniston does very well here and her Justine is as far from her Rachael as is needed. Likewise her character is as far from any life she has ever lived, but she brings it to life and does develop well while still keeping it down to earth and relatable. Reilly and Nelson have good roles that get better as the film goes on and they give good performances. Nelson has the harder job of keeping his character within some sort of relatable reality and he does it well. Gyllenhaal's character is harder to get and is not treated as well by the film, but in essence he is the driver for Justine's journey and is developed well enough to do that. He plays him well and, with Donnie Darko, is in danger of only getting the `weirdo kid' roles.
Overall this is a good film that is maybe too downbeat and understated to be really called enjoyable. It is good to see a Hollywood star make a film that is driven by her character and she rises to the challenge and gives a performance that, although not earth shattering, is certainly better than all the stuff she's been doing of late.
Years ago I had a conversation with some young guy who worked on the
loading docks. He was frustrated by his life, felt inarticulate and
incapable of escaping his plight or of really doing anything with his
life. He had the wish but not the talent to express himself through art
and felt he had nothing to look forward to. I thought of him while
watching The Good Girl, a movie about a very ordinary person trapped in
a hum drum existence.
I've noticed some discussion in these reviews as to whether The Good Girl is a comedy or drama, and I would suggest people stop trying to label the movie. The Good Girl clearly isn't trying to be either, but simply a movie that captures the life of someone who feels trapped, portraying both the drama and comedy inherent in life. It's a small, studied, intelligently written movie that's well worth watching. Don't worry about what it is, just watch it and take it the way you take life, not as a comedy or drama but just as what it is.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOLIERS - i thought Anniston's character was completely hideous by the end. because a relationship has become inconvenient for her, she 1) almost tries to kill her lover by feeding him poison berries 2) goes to his parents and tries to get him commited... perhaps he is ill, but she totally lies about the relationship to protect herself, and going to the parents portrayed in the film as uncaring, distant and hated by their son is a total betrayal of him... 3) finally she betrays him again and he shoots himself. She could have let him leave town without telling the police where he was - sure, it would have been a little uncomfortable for her at retail rodeo, but to betray him like that? life goes on for Justine however, especially since she is able to convince her husband her baby is his. one could argue she was doing him a favour... but when the whole town will be suspicious of the parentage.... i can deal with morally ambiguous characters, but justine turned out all bad and just so very selfish & base. that's what i got out of the movie. anybody else?
Justine (the gorgeous Jennifer Aniston) is a thirty years old, frustrated and married woman, bored with her monotonous life. She works as a clerk in a supermarket, and none of her dreams has come through. She quit schooling just before going to the college, she got married very young, she got trapped in a small town in a job without any perspective and even her expectation of being mother is not being accomplished. Her husband Phil (John C. Reilly, an excellent and underrated actor) is a house painter, who gets stoned most of the vacant time, as a form of escaping his life, with his colleague and best friend Bubba (Tim Blake Nelson). Their entertainment is watching a noisy TV at night. One day, Justine meets her new colleague Holden Worther (Jack Gyllenhaal), a strange ex-addicted and drunken guy, who wants to be a writer. Justine feels a type of attraction for him, which grows to a crush, ending in an affair. The cuckold and naive Phil does not suspect of the situation. Then, the screenplay presents many plot points, alternating dramatic situations with a very black humor. This is indeed a deep movie, with very well developed characters. Basically all of them have a sort of frustration in life, like all of us, which is revealed along the story. The black humor is proportioned in doses to relieve the tension in many situations. Jennifer Aniston proves that she is an excellent actress, able to conduct and carry out a dense movie. Many persons just know her work as Rachel in `Friends', and just expect her to perform foolish roles. For them, I suggest for example, to watch `The Object of My Affection'. I am very suspicious to write about Jennifer Aniston, since I am a great fan of her, but she has a great performance in this film. Of course, the supporting actors and actresses and the direction are also superb. It is ridiculous the classification of comedy for such a movie. This type of classification certainly misleads the viewer and affects the evaluation. This is a movie that deserves to be watched more than once. My vote is nine.
Jennifer Aniston excels as small-town cashier, stifled in a rudderless marriage and miserable at her boring job, who has an affair with a younger co-worker, leading to a series of confounding personal events. Black comedy is initially bright and biting, subtle about its comedic elements and characters while gently satirizing the middle class aesthetic. Unfortunately, the film takes a wrong turn late in the second-half and never quite recovers, leading to an emotionally unsatisfying finish. The performers are all terrific, especially John C. Reilly as Aniston's pot-smoking husband; but, as the screenplay loses steam so do the actors, and the final events are mechanically offbeat--engineered to be quirky. *** from ****
Mike White, writer of The Good Girl, deserves the most credit here. While
there is good direction and good performances all around, the writing tops
the lot by getting the audience to feel for the characters and to understand
their human nature from start to finish. Plus, there is a even handed
amount of humor (sometimes from stoners and sometimes from quirks in the
store) to go along with the drama.
And the performances- Jennifer Anniston shows she can actually do something other than Friends and portrays small town Justine with her wants, desperation, disgust, and ultimitely fears. Gyllenhaal is as compelling as her passionately crazy co-worker, self based on The Catcher in the Rye if only to himself; Reilly and Nelson give the best performances of the picture (and should've gotten a little more screen time) as pot head painters with aimless destinies.
The Good Girl is a keen portrayal of small town angst at the never-ending, often monotonous and uninspired/unfortunate basis. One of the better dramedies of the year. A-
This is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I was literally
laughing so loud when I saw this movie in the theatre that people were
getting mad at me. The movie is also unbelievably sad, and if you dont like
comedies with sad overtones, this is not the movie for you. This movie is
so perfectly written. You care about Justine (Jennifer Aniston), and you
can feel her deep rooted sadness for everyday life, and you can just hope
that you don't get stuck in a situation like that when you go out on your
watch this movie more than once, Oscar nods should be given to Jennifer
Aniston and Jake Gellynhall, both of their performances are amazing.
(requiem for a dream)
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